Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunrise Sunset

Raising sons is an ongoing adventure, one filled with a parade of trucks, scraped knees, spilled milk and imagination. As a woman, I sometimes wonder what I can offer my two boys as they prepare to grow into men. What could I possibly know about being a man? But then I remember that I do have an advantage in this area, one that provides infinite help and guidance: I am married to a man who I am madly in love with, who happens to be my best friend and who is an absolutely marvelous father.

Jason and I dropped our sons off on Thursday evening at my parents so that we could be ready for an Engaged Encounter weekend beginning on Friday. As we hardly ever have a night with the boys away from home, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and do something romantic together, something to draw us closer to one another before our special weekend. 

So what did we do? Naturally, we went to see Inglourious Basterds

But in all seriousness, there was a time in our relationship when viewing Quentin Tarantino films together truly was romantic, for it was something that we both enjoyed and would assuredly spark much intriguing conversation, accented with moments of debate, laughter and thoughtfulness.

However, it seems that I have entered a new season in my life in which sensationalized, violent, vengeful movies actually disgust and anger me. When did this happen? Only a few short years ago, I looked down on the pitiful saps who couldn't stomach the fake blood and guts of Hollywood, with skins so thin that they found offense at the slightest provocation. Is this just another inevitability of motherhood? As Father Treacy so eloquently stated this weekend, no mother raises her boy to kill. So then, as mothers, can we not stand to see actors pretend to kill, savagely beat and scalp other actors? Do the ideals we keep for our children reach as far as the DVD we get in the mail from Netflix? I'm not sure.

But all of this forces me to further wonder, if I have changed this much in a few years, who will I be five years from now? Twenty-five years from now? It is frightening, exciting, overwhelming and bewildering to know that I really don't know the person I will become. 

I am reminded of Stevie Nicks singing the melancholy, insightful lyrics, "Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Well, Ive been afraid of changing
cause Ive built my life around you, but time makes you bolder. Children get older and I'm getting older too." 

Despite any uncertainty, I do know one thing. Besides death, nothing will separate me from my constant Jason. No doom or crises or daily monotony will divide us. There is no ruining of us, for we will live and grow together just as we both sign every letter to one another . . . Always and Forever.

It is this love that is my grandest blessing not only as a wife, but as a mother. Jason and I firmly believe that by putting each other first, we grant our children the most powerful gift that we could ever bestow on them, for they live every day in the safety and security of their parents' love. It is our hope that through witnessing the strength of our bond, they may have some glimpse into God's love for all of us. It may seem idealist, but that's because it is. We know that. 

But I also know that I have seen God's light . . . Every day . . . In Jason.

I dare to dream that the seeds we plant into our relationship now will not only produce benefits for us. I dream of a day when I sit in the front pew of a Church. I watch my son's eyes light up. He stands handsomely in a tuxedo, gazing at his pretty bride walking down the aisle. Hand in hand, they recite their vows and begin the intertwining of their lives. 

I dream that my sons will one day make good husbands. Good fathers.

And I am reassured each morning as I wake to see the beloved face sleeping on the pillow beside me, his breath slow and steady. I am reassured, because with Jason as their father, how could they not?

And as I make this realization, a twinge of anxiety passes through me, for I know that when they are ready to become good husbands and fathers, I will not be ready to let them go.

But the worry is lessened as I picture Jason sitting beside me on that pew, holding my hand, my steadfast companion as I navigate through the many seasons of my life.  

"Sunrise Sunset"
From Fiddler on the Roof  
Sung by Tevye and Golde as they watch the wedding ceremony of their eldest daughter 

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he get to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
Now they must learn from one another
Day by day
They look so natural together
Just like two newlyweds should be
Is there a canopy in store for me?
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beef Stew and The Power of Our Wills

Beef stew. That's what almost put me over the edge tonight. Beef stew.

But let me explain. This was not just some canned, mushy, bland glop titled "Beef Stew." No, this was large pieces of tender beef that would fall apart in your mouth because they were simmering all day long in pinot noir. Simmering with velvety potato, sweet carrot, onion, and garlic. This beef stew had homemade herb dumplings floating on the surface. This beef stew would make grandma proud.

And yet, this beef stew, just like practically everything else lately, created a battle between my four year old son, Joshua, and I.  Setting the bowl before him, I could tell Joshua was not open to trying this.His brow was furrowed, his mind was set and it was not set on this. I know that I am not alone as a parent in the wars of dinnertime and toddlerhood. But that doesn't really comfort me the way it probably should.

Here is the savory, scrumptious dish I prepared.

Here is  Joshua's bowl after he's massacred his dinner.

Sunday morning we drove out of the Church parking lot to leave for the pumpkin patch, and Joshua began whining.

"Are we going to have to get onto I-5?"

"Yes, we are. Are you excited to pick out your pumpkin?" I asked cheerfully.

"I don't want to go on I-Fiiiiiiive," Joshua whined with such conviction, such determination that my best friend, Jenny, has recently titled Joshua the best whiner she knows. And she's right. He's talented. My son knows how to whine silently. How many children can you say that about? His body convulses as he staggers about, whining while he makes not a sound but a shuffling of his feet on the floor and the jerking and flailing of his limbs all about.

Joshua definitely has the stronger will of my two sons, which someday may be a wonderful gift for him. As his mother, I sincerely hope I am able to help guide him to that place. But in the world of time-outs, sibling rivalry, whining and tantrums, a strong will does not seem like such a gift. Joshua just does not want to be told what to do. He does not want to ride along I-5 simply because I've said we are going to. When venting about this predicament to a group of women, one responded very simply, "Well, I don't like being told what to do either. Who does?"

At the time, I was slightly annoyed by her lack of understanding. But after a few weeks of stewing over it, it seems like she was able to describe the essence of the problem in that short statement. Because I can imagine up a thousand different creative ways to get my son to go to the bathroom, brush his teeth, clean up his toys or stop hitting his brother. But in the end, he still won't want to listen to me. He will continually resist with every little cell in his body.

Don't we all?

When told that we need to get up at 6:00 am, drink eight glasses of water a day, pay the rising heating bill, floss each morning and each night, make healthy choices about what we eat, buy the right shade of denim jeans that are neither too loose nor too tight, take our vitamins, save for retirement, buy every damn type of insurance, mop the floor, get a flu shot, rotate our tires, flip our mattresses, water our organic, pesticide-free vegetable gardens, buy energy efficient light bulbs and dishwashers, oh and just one last, little thing . . . be good people.

Don't we all cringe at the long list of items we are told to do each day? Just like four year olds? Are we not all governed by nature to be immature, selfish beings?

But then, are we not also, as parents, called to teach our children to try to resist this part of themselves?

And can someone please tell me exactly how we are supposed to do that?